Workspace of the issue: Small Business Enterprise + Research Centre

The Small Business Research + Enterprise Centre (SBREC) is the City of London Corporation's small business startup support service, open to all pre-startups, small businesses, and SMEs in the City, London, and UK.

Based in the historic Guildhall, SBREC offers access to a range of specialist business information and market research to develop your ideas or business goals. The service also offers flexible workspace, hosts business support events, and provides expert business advice to help grow your business.

The best part? Membership is free!

Let’s start at the very beginning

SBREC opened in April 2023, but the service actually has a long, rich history dating from the 1870s. It started out as a small desk in the original Guildhall library, but as times changed and business in the Square Mile developed, the desk transitioned into a library of its own.

But as times continued to change and businesses continued to develop and the world suffered the challenges of the pandemic, the services weren't meeting what entrepreneurs were looking for anymore – they needed more, especially access to digital support!

So, at the start of the pandemic, the service decided to pivot, and it happened quickly enough to warrant a whole new identity as a business centre. It combined the best of what it was with a new contemporary service that attracted and appealed to a greater audience.

The new Centre is bringing entrepreneurs a whole new kind of energy!

What makes SBREC different?

Startups really are at the heart of SBREC, and one of its main priorities is to continue to establish itself as a recognised hub for SMEs.

It does this via four main components:

Market research and business data

SBREC is the only UK dedicated service for business information offering in-person and remote access to specialist business databases.

The databases include practical startup guidance, in-depth market/industry data worldwide, plus national, and international coverage for statistics, company profiles, financials, and contacts, along with current business news.

Alexandra Leader, SME Lead at the City Corporation, said: “We subscribe to world-renowned databases, so that startups and small businesses can access this type of data, which they would not normally be able to afford. If you're starting a business or if you're trying to expand, you do really need to base your decisions on information that's reliable.

“I always say to small businesses, you can’t rely on gathering insights from the internet as you are not sure that the information can be trusted. This is especially true if they are planning to pitch to investors. Investors want to know that startups have done proper research into their market. The databases that we subscribe to provides reliable data that can help inform key business decisions.”

Seminars, workshops, and events

The Centre also runs a multifaceted programme of events with the aim of helping new/existing businesses with key business growth functions like finance, intellectual property, digital marketing, presentations skills, and more.

Free webinars are available on a regular basis, with seminars and workshops taking place at the Centre. Small businesses are encouraged to join not only to gain new information, but also for networking purposes and peer-to-peer support.

Their business advisers run business planning startup sessions which deep dive into how you might take an idea and turn it into an actual business.

Then there are the collaborative events – these are bigger events, bringing together SBREC’s partners such as local solicitors, accelerators, or other kinds of business support services within the SME ecosystem.

Expert assistance

If you’re starting or growing a business, you might benefit from visiting. Along with their extensive data and business information they also have expert assistance available.

“Based on customer feedback, we’ve added business advice to our portfolio to expand the range of support that is on offer. It is important that SBREC continues to provide a trusted place that start-ups and small businesses can access to start or expand their business. We have qualified business advisers on hand who deliver group training and they also deliver one-to-one business advice sessions. Moving forward we will be delivering an e-business support programme, focusing on digital skills for SMEs in the City and Tower Hamlets too,” noted Alexandra.

The business advisers are on site during the Centre’s opening hours every Monday to Thursday, who have expert knowledge of starting a business and work closely with other industry and subject matter experts.

Location and space

In terms of style, it’s a space for those who don’t necessarily want a monthly subscription to a regular desk or office. It’s for those people who are just popping in and out of the City and want to have a space to work whether it’s for the day or in-between meetings, and a space to belong as a member, meeting like-minded businesspeople, but at no cost.

In terms of facilities, there’s secure Wi-Fi, refreshments, free desk space, and rentable rooms if you want to host meetings, run training events, film videos, or record podcasts.

All areas of the Centre are accessible, and it has excellent transport links which makes it easy to visit.


Quite simply, SBREC is there for anybody who is a pre-startup, startup, sole trader, a small business, an entrepreneur, freelancer, or consultant.

And membership is completely free of charge as the Centre is funded by the City Corporation. This membership allows businesses to use anything onsite at no cost.

There is also an option to pay for remote access to the business data available at the Centre. An annual membership for anyone in the UK is £189.

Future plans

SBREC is now in the process of developing more in-house support services for small businesses. It’s working with key stakeholders to expand the team and support the development of small business for a flourishing economy.

“It's very much going to be the hub of activity for SME support in the City, and beyond,” summarises Alexandra.

This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe